Can Businesses Learn from the Military?


 Can Businesses Learn from the Military?

If you've ever heard of the "Five Fingers of Death" or the "Iron Triangle", you'll know that the military knows a thing or two about efficiency. But these business management techniques were developed for military operations and are aimed at maximizing effectiveness on large, outdoor battlefields. How can these tactics be translated over to an office environment?

We're going to explore this question, and give some recommendations on how businesses can apply these principles in their own organization. So read up, take notes, and let's get started!

The article is based on many different sources including: The Military Doctrine: What Business Can Learn From It by William James Adams Jr.

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By William James Adams Jr.

A few years ago, I was involved in an exercise called "Army After Next". In this exercise, as a part of a team from the Center for Strategic Leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, we were given a hypothetical future environment in which there had been domestic unrest and a political upheaval in the United States.

The resulting regime had banned the use of all traditional weapons and the U.S. Army had to re-tool for an unconventional fight against its enemies using only irregulars, terrorists and other civilians as forces to be reckoned with. Every aspect of our national security apparatus—military, economic, diplomatic—was affected by this radical shift in how we did business.

The exercise paints a vivid picture of the future if the United States is not careful, which is why we must start to implement security measures that can be adapted to a variety of global scenarios. We need to consider how these steps can help restore our position and the confidence of other nations who are still getting their bearings and understanding what this fight might be about.

For us, that meant implementing three key strategies: improving our national security industrial base, diversifying our economy and opening up international markets so our allies could benefit as well. Let's dive in to how we accomplished these objectives, which will give you an idea of what it takes to build a robust national defense industry in just 24 hours.

Industrial base:

We needed to quickly develop a domestic defense industrial force in the United States that could provide the services and materials we needed. In order to do this, we relied on our allies and friends. We asked them for their support and for advice on how best to rebuild our domestic economy without access to the traditional manufacturing and logistical capabilities of other countries. We also wanted their help with creating a new infrastructure from scratch.

Diversify our economy:

We were no longer trading with other countries, so we asked our allies and friends what they were willing to sell us. As a result, some small transactions occurred, but nothing too significant. We also needed to set up a commercial infrastructure in coordination with our defense industries so we could do business with other countries while they had access to our technology. This was a piecemeal effort, but it was crucial to letting companies on the outside know where we are headed as a nation.

International markets:

We also need to get foreign buyers into these markets—to make them profitable for American companies and let the uninitiated know that we are back—and that this is not going away anytime soon. We had a choice of six different plants in which our allies and friends were willing to open their factories up to us. The choice came down to a very narrow range of options, but we chose the facility in Newport News, Virginia.

The "Iron Triangle" is a military term that describes a situation where three factors present extreme risk to an operation: time, space and mass. Those in the military know that these three elements can cancel each other out and only when they are isolated will they be able to be exploited. This is why the Iron Triangle serves as an additional defense mechanism against operations involving just one of these three elements. For example: if you have air superiority but lack the physical capabilities to occupy an entire territory, it's possible for your enemy to collapse on you from all sides at once with mass and space advantage against you.

The expansion of the defense industrial base and opening up markets was a "triangle" that we had to overcome. By this, it meant that time, space and mass had to be in our favor in order to achieve our objective. As people around the world continue to look at the United States as weak following a period of instability and vulnerability, alternative methods of achieving national security objectives are necessary. It's a new world out there, and many nations are looking for innovative ways to obtain their own solutions. We must innovate within our own borders, an impossible task for any country if it were not for the help from one of its allies or friendly partners.

Every day is an adventure when you're on them.

—Salvador Dali

One of the hardest things to do is to change, and especially when it comes to security. With so many external and internal factors influencing not only integration, but also the maintenance of successful information security ecosystems, a lot can go wrong.

We live in a world with increasing connectivity through rapid advances in the communications industry fueled by new technologies that enable intelligent communication and data sharing. The ability to communicate with each other has undergone a paradigm shift since the days of smoke signals and carrier pigeons; we are able to anticipate actions before they happen because we can see them unfold before us in real time.


Organizations must keep up their guard by keeping in mind the combined efforts of external and internal attack vectors.

We are indeed living in a different world, a world where information security is rapidly evolving to become a bigger concern than ever before. The complete elimination of cyberattacks and breaches has not happened yet. Even if we assume that all hackers are part of one or several organized crime rings, we still have to consider the possibility that some of these individuals may be just regular people trying to carry out their own economic benefit.

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